Sandy Thiel(’72): 50 Years in Theatre
When the Christian Brothers religious order came to teach at Shanley High School in 1964, Sandy Thiel found not only a new wardrobe — school uniforms marked by pleated skirts and “knee highs” — but also a calling.
“That first year, we did ‘The Unsinkable Molly Brown,’” she says of the school’s inaugural musical in 1967, her junior year.
At Brother Andrew’s encouragement, Thiel says, she helped with props, and something stuck.
Later, while studying at UJ, Thiel returned seasonally to help with Shanley’s spring musical, eventually relocating permanently here to work as an accountant.
But theater had captured her, and for almost all 51 years of Shanley musicals, Thiel has been there, costuming the students, designing sets and helping complete a vision.
“How I remember when people graduated is by recalling what musical they were in,” Thiel says.
Eventually, volunteer work became paid, and evolved into assisting with costuming for public school productions as well.
Thiel attributes her dedication and work ethic to the Presentation sisters from her earliest years.
“Even in first and second grade the nuns were so impactful to me about the life they were living,” she says. “They worked so hard, and for little to no pay…all to impart the faith to others.”
Thiel brings that now into her day job at the Dakota Boys Ranch Thrift Store, where she works as a manager.
“The Boys Ranch has a mission to help children and their families in the name of Christ. I kind of fell into it,” she says, noting that she enjoys mingling with customers and employees there from all walks of life.
“You hear so many stories from immigrants, and other customers; it’s a good feeling to be able to help them out,” she says. “You can’t do everything you want to do but I feel like I’m doing something.”
In 2012, Thiel was bestowed the prestigious Shanley Deacon Award for her tireless commitment in various areas; an honor her father, Adam, also earned years earlier.
Explaining her motivation, she produces a folded paper bearing a quote from Mother Teresa: “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”
Sandra Thiel graduated from UJ in 1972 with a Bachelor of Arts in German.